Exclusive Interview : Rob Schneider

Having starred in such gimmicky studio pics like ”The Hot Chick”, ”The Animal” and ”Deuce Bigalow : Male Gigolo”, Comic superstar Rob Schneider decided enough was enough – he wanted to do something a little more realistic, even if he had to pay to get it done himself. As it ended up, he did.

Schneider talks to CLINT MORRIS about Big Stan, a new martial-arts comedy he wrote, performed in, directed and single-handedly will distribute (in the states anyway).

I loved this movie – and I understand you had quite a bit of a struggle getting it done?

Yes, no studio wanted to make it. They’d say ‘Ha, Ha this is funny! – But we don’t wanna make it’. So I said ‘Fuck that! I’ll do it myself!’

So my brother and I did it! We got the money and did it ourselves! If I never get to make another movie, I’ll be just happy that we got this done – because it’s a good one to end on.

I remember the last time I spoke to you was for Deuce Bigalow European Gigolo and you seemed a bit disappointed with the film – that there wasn’t enough ‘heart’ in the movie.

[Big Stan] was a response to getting out of the studio system. It’s not that I hate what I’ve done before it’s just that I don’t want to do it anymore. I wanted to do something where it’s not a superhero, it’s ‘just a guy’ who gets the most out of himself in the most extreme, fun way. I enjoyed it but it was tough, because it was a little tiny movie. I’d been paid more than the whole budget on this movie. Everyone that was there wanted to be there – from David Carradine to Henry Gibson to Emmett Walsh; these are heavyweight solid actors. They wanted to be there, and they supported me, and I love them for it.

And Nino Pilla, my master, lived with me throughout the shoot and beforehand just to make sure I kept up with the martial-arts training. It was amazing. Nino’s master is Guru Dan Insato and he’s the guy that introduced Bruce Lee to nunchucks – he even showed me the original nunchucks that Bruce had! That was cool! It was so cool to work with the guy that worked with [Bruce Lee].

Where was the first screening of Big Stan?

It’s actually burned in my memory –  it was in Agoura Hills, to a small audience of 125 people. I walked in and said ‘Ok you guys, you’re about to see this different movie – let me know what you think about’.

During the scene where they’re talking about rape three women got up and walked out. I thought I was over. But then, when we talked to people after it, we got a higher response from women than we did men!

It was really rewarding to hear people laugh and have a good time with it.

I’m excited to see what people think.

I remember you were having a bit of a struggle getting distribution at one time?

Yep, which is less a reflection on the movie than it is the independent film world right now. Bob Yari’s company, who had been sitting on this for years, went under and so they were nice enough to let me have it back – The Weinstein Company wouldn’t let you get it back, let alone pay you! So I’m getting it released here [in Australia] and I’m keeping my fingers crossed it takes off.

So is Australia the first territory it’s being released?

It got released in Russia, the Ukraine and I believe Bulgaria. Small places but I was just happy that anyone would release it. I’ve been to Russia a few times and they’ve always responded well to my movies, but they responded better to this movie than of any movie I’ve ever had!

After Australia, it’s going to Mexico. For the states, I’ve literally just rented a few theatres – it will have no studio push at all. My brother and I took our own money, rented a few theatres, and we’re going to push it out like they did in the old days.

It’s a labour of love this one – I’m definitely not the bloated Hollywood star whose going to be wheeled out to promote the next studio thing. I’m glad you’ve realized what a struggle this was.

The movie took a while to get done too, right?

Yeah. Three or four years. I had to get in shape, raise the money and rewrite the script – which I did myself, I just had no money, so I couldn’t afford to hire some bloated Hollywood writer to rewrite it.

You always intended on directing it?

Yeah, because I knew exactly what it was that I wanted to accomplish from this one. I felt very comfortable doing it.

That’s very Stallone-esque of you, too…

Well, I hope I didn’t bring the ego to it. I just wanted to do it myself. There was room for it.

I think most people would be expecting for some of your buddies, like Adam Sandler, to pop up in it…

I didn’t want them. I wanted it to be its own animal.

You had no trouble coaxing David Carradine into it?

Carradine loved it. He’s an enigmatic kind of character. This, to me, is like his Freshman – Brando was brilliant in The Freshman; I thought that was a lovely little movie – and he got it. I don’t think Kill Bill was as much of a wink to Kung-Fu as this is.  Quentin Tarantino is a friend of mine and he suggested we all – Quentin, David and myself – go out for dinner. I asked David what he thought of the script and he says, ‘I didn’t read it, tell me about it’. So I told him what the script is and he basically said ‘I’ll do it’. He eventually read the script and loved it. He laughed his ass off. And then I rewrote the script and sent it to him and he said ‘I think you fucking ruined it!’ I thought he was kidding, and he was like ‘No, you fucking took out the dance at the end! Fuckin’ ruined the movie!’ So I went and put it back in. I love that guy – even though he beat the crap out of me and broke my finger. I love the guy.

Carradine’s the type of guy that doesn’t have to work – he did this because he got it.

Same thing with Emmett Walsh. A great actor. He said ‘I think I can have some fun with this’. I remember he was disappointed that I cut one little scene – because it didn’t move the story along. These are the guys you wanna work with.

Henry Gibson was great too. He’s 70 and he’s working in 140 degree heat and just giving it his all!

Had you done martial-arts before?

A little. I’d done Judo as a little kid. I actually screwed up my hip – the master used to throw me on the floor. I’d never done this though. I wanted to hire guys to teach me who respected the art and Dan Inasato and Nino, who is from Adelaide, really do respect it. I wanted to do it and not make it goofy. I took it serious. They did too. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to do it that way again but it was an influence of my life, that’s for sure.

You did a movie with Van Damme (“Knock Off”) years ago, right?

That was fun! In Hong Kong the safety standards are a wee bit different than they are in other places. When we did a traffic scene you simply look this way, look that way and if there are no cops, you go! It was ridiculous! My stunt guy broke his leg, Jean Claude Van Damme’s guy tore his shoulder. I can’t say I would ever do that again but it was fun. It was really fun to do an action picture – people want to do stuff like that. The picture I was disappointed in overall, though it had some really good scenes in it. But you can have the best cast, the best script, the best cinematographer and an Academy Award Winning director and it can still turn out to be a piece of crap. Or you can have no money, very little time, a young cinematographer and a first time director and turn out something special.

I flicked on cable the other night and saw you in “Home Alone 2”.

I didn’t even know what I was doing back then! Twenty years later, you better have learnt something.

You really mixed it up in those old days though – I mean you did “Judge Dredd”!

I’d just quit Saturday Night Live – that was my first real job in showbizness – and I remember thinking ‘Maybe that’s it’. I felt I had to quit Saturday Night Live though – I didn’t want to be one of those guys that just hangs on. That’s embarrassing. So I said ‘I’m leaving. If I never work again, I never work again’. Then I got a call from Sylvester Stallone who offered me a part in a movie called Demolition Man. Sly said “Hey listen kid, Joe Pesci said no, you’re it’. We worked together for three months… mostly making fun of each other, or him mostly making fun of me. I’m sorry we hadn’t kept in contact. He saved me.

He does seem like a decent guy.

I love the guy – I don’t like the guy, I love the guy. Ya know, he could’ve been an intolerable bore but he’s really a lovable guy. He’s the guy that hired me and put me in Judge Dredd opposite him. I love him for that. And that saved me- it transitioned me out of TV. The movie ultimately didn’t really work – it was too true to its original form. He went too true to the comic book. But I learnt a lot about filmmaking from Sly. I got the best shape in my life for it too. I learnt about working out and eating right from him. [In Stallone voice] “You can’t have protein with a vegetable. What are you doing!? That’s disgusting! I’m twice as old as you and you’re a fucking wreck!”

Have you kept it up?

I know how to get it back – I never get massively out of shape. I remember him saying [in Stallone voice] “Thing is, when you’re over 35, if you have less water in your muscles you look better”.  Now that I’m over 35, I get that. He was very sound in what he said.

What I love about Stallone is how honest he is too. He recognizes how shit some of his past films are – like the Rocky sequels.

He is an honest guy. When I worked with him he was at the tail-end of his superstardom; he was just starting to go down there – but he’s still like one of the most famous people in the world. When I saw how he handled in a good-way and a bad-way, and also how cavalier he was about it, it was a real lesson for me. I will take time for kids no matter what. He was like a crazy famous person – I’ve never seen someone walk down the street and stop traffic. And I also realized I don’t want that kind of fame. I’m famous and I get recognized nearly every where I go but there’s that crazy white-hot superstar fame that burns out your career and I’ve never had that. Maybe some day I will have that and I’ll learn how to deal with it. I’ve never had the white-hot fame that say, Jim Carrey or Russell Crowe, has. I’m managed to avoid that and I think I’ve managed to keep my career going longer that way. If it does happen, I won’t avoid it, because it opens up opportunities to do other things. I’d love to do different kind of work and that comes with being a box-office heavyweight.

You mentioned Tarantino. Would you like to work with him?

I called him up about Inglorious Basterds but there was really nothing I was right for in it. He actually read the first 45 pages to me in his screening room. He said there might be a part for me that I’d be good for. Ya know, if it happens, it happens – I can’t live my life waiting for someone to give me a role…. So I write them myself and produce the movies myself. So yeah, if it happens it happens, but I’d love to work with him. He has such a great energy.

You’re producing more of your own stuff at the moment?

Yeah, well there’s a movie that we ran out of money on called The Chosen One. We need three million more bucks. We’ll get it – it just may take a while. I’ll finish it. Here’s how I look at it – just knowing Hollywood can destroy its most prized talent, like Orson Welles or Montgomery Clift, they can definitely destroy Rob Schneider. It was our own fuck up – we should never have started the movie if we knew we couldn’t finish it. But something good will come from it. Or it’ll just be what it is. You have to let go of your expectations and dreams sometimes.

Have you said goodbye to Deuce Bigalow?

Yes, I have. It was done. I was chasing a movie to chase a hit… or chasing fumes. It worked before so we thought the sequel might work. If you’re lucky to capture a little bit of magic it’s like capturing lightning in a jug. To try and recapture that is foolish. That to me, artistically and financially – the studio made like a behemoth amount out of the first one, like $350 million dollars – was such a good lesson. I was kinda relieved when it didn’t hit big because it meant I’ll never have to do it again. I don’t want to be that guy. I don’t want to be that guy on every July 4th – like Will Smith.

Yeah. Rob Schneider as ‘The Stapler’

God that was funny! My friend Matt Soering, head writer on The Simpson’s – which I think is the best written show on TV – said “[South Park] was so nice to you, they should have been meaner”. He’s right [Laughs]. It’s a real honour. That was funny. And it’s very valid. What I don’t get is ‘Der’… ya know? They had me doing ‘Der, Der-Der-Der-Der’. What was that!? [Laughs]

And they had me with that crazy hair thing that I used to have back then. I was so tickled. I’m kinda worried because they haven’t made fun of me since.

Is there a sequel in Big Stan?

I don’t know – that’s a lot of work to get back into shape for that. But you know what? I think David (Carradine) would want to do it. I think that one you could have a sequel to – but let’s see the response around the world first for the first one. It has to be called for. You know, I think there are some movies, but very few, that I think ‘you know, a sequel to that would be good’. Clousea, for instance, in The Pink Panther was just a smaller supporting role but Blake Edwards realized that’s where they money was so they used him in the sequels. That’s valid. You know, if it’s an interesting idea, we’ll see. We’ll think about it. Its part of the real world, this movie, as opposed to those man-whores, so that might be deciding factor as to whether or not a sequel will happen.

What have you done since Big Stan wrapped?

I worked with Adam Sandler on [You Don’t Mess With The] Zohan. It was a movie he’d wanted to do for eight years. I’m very proud of it. It’s a silly… crazy… movie.

I thought it was good!

He’s very brave to put himself out there like that – and it worked! It’s his most successful movie outside of America. It barely made a 100 million in America, but outside of America it made more – which is great. And then I did The Chosen One, which we’re going to have to finish. I wrote a movie called The Last Man, which is about the last man on earth. He’s a homeless guy and he ends up being the last guy. It’s a good little movie. I just finished a movie called American Virgin, which was called Virgin on Bourbon Street, and I’m going to do a movie, it’s a drama, called Stolen Hearts, which Michael Phillips is directing in Europe and I’m leaving in January.

And you did a movie with the lovely Dana Lustig called Wild Cherry?

I love her, but I’m a little disappointed in the way the movie turned out. Ultimately she’s more talented than the material. I liked working with her though. It’s a tiny little movie. Dana, I love you, you just shouldn’t make movies like this. But, ya know, she’s talented and I wouldn’t be surprised if she can put it together in a decent way. I play the dad in it. I loved working with a female director though. I also worked with a female director on American Virgin – Claire Kilner. It’s about a girl who takes a vow of chastity and goes off to university and ends up at one of those girls-gone-wild parties and then she’s got to get the video-tape back. It’s a nice movie. I play the bad guy in it – a horrible asshole! Just this sleazy bastard guy! And I had a ball! I talked to the director for seven months about this movie and expressed how I wanted the bad guy to have a reason for being this way, or something that makes him human. It ended up being great. It’s a shocking little movie and she’s a terrific director.

Who is in it with you?

Jenna Dewan from Step Up, Brianna Davis – who is the lovely little actress, and Bo Burnham, who plays my sidekick, is like this internet phenomenon – he gets like 6 million hits a month on the stuff he does. It used to be that I was the young guy working with the old guys, but now I’m the old guy, so it was cool that they were all looking at me. I want to do that again. There was great energy on this film – they’re all happy to be there; it was great to be around that. I wanted to be as excited as they were – which is a challenge, forty movies in. I loved being the bad guy – but as I said, it has to come from some place, not just be shitty behaviour.

Any more appearances in Adam’s films?

I play an Indian in Bedtime Stories. I wonder if he can come up with any more? He’s writing a movie called The Lake House, which is kind of like his Big Chill. He’s a really lovely writer. He’s the guy who really wrote a lot of the nice scenes in Click. He’s putting his mark on the next movie. And it’s for him and his buddies who he’s been with for years. He’s writing this closer to the bone. He did write a character for me in this movie he’s doing called Born to be a Star – which is about a guy who discovers his parents are in the porn industry – but the role scares the shit out of me! So, for that reason, I might do it. I’d play the director. If you take away all the stuff about pornography, the movie’s really talking about myself – it’s about acting, it’s about life. It’s funny, when someone knows you so well they get into your psyche, it’s a little scary. He’s the most distinctly brilliant guy I know. He gets rid of whatever phoniness he sees and he just attacks it. He’s such a compassionate guy. When I was going through my divorce the one guy that kept checking up on me was Adam. I didn’t want to see anyone at the time, but he wouldn’t leave me alone. He stuck with me. He dragged me out of my house. He’s a really remarkable guy. You need friends like that.

Well tell him my wife wants to see a Wedding Singer sequel…

You know what? I would love that! That’s one of my favourite movies of his – just a sweet little movie. Those movies people remember forever because they have a heart to it.

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